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U.S. Contributes to a Recipe for Despair

Author: Henry Siegman, Former Senior Fellow and Former Director for the U.S./Middle East Project
April 15, 2002
The Australian


THE Bush Administration's approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains so deeply flawed as to guarantee the failure of Secretary of State Colin Powell's mission to the region.

The administration continues to believe it is possible for Yasser Arafat to implement a ceasefire and to diminish the level of Palestinian terrorism by verbal exhortation. What has been missing, in the administration's view, is Arafat's willingness to demand -- in Arabic, of course -- that the violence come to an end. The reality is that no matter how many speeches Arafat will make condemning terrorism, it is entirely predictable that the latest round of Israeli assaults on Palestinian cities, towns and refugee camps, which has succeeded in destroying what little remained of institutions that make possible the barest survival of Palestinian life, will trigger an even greater wave of Palestinian terrorism that neither Arafat nor anyone else can prevent.

This coming wave of terrorism will be seen in Israel and portrayed in the US not as the inexorable consequence of Israel's depredations in the Palestinian territories but as irrefutable evidence that Arafat has once again deceived President George W. Bush and has therefore forfeited his last chance to redeem himself.

The result of this utterly predictable and unspeakably tragic course of events is that Ariel Sharon will send the Israeli forces back into Palestinian areas with even more destructive fury than before and Bush will declare that Arafat, having failed once again the opportunity he offered him to assert responsible leadership, will have to fend for himself.

Whatever limited progress will result from Powell's visit will be blown away by the next suicide bomber and will plunge the region into even deeper despair.

Henry Siegman is a senior fellow on the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.

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